By Paige Nash
Jessica Stewart Gorman is officially onboard as part of the “Museum Family of History Keepers” at Dorcheat Historical Museum. She was born and reared in Minden and graduated Minden High School in 1997. She has been a stay-at-home-mom for a little more than 19 years.
She originally started working at the Minden Cemetery located south of Bayou Avenue by the Coca-Cola plant, close by the downtown district. She began there around March 2020 when she found herself with more free time due to Covid. The cemetery is separated into two sections, with Jessica focusing most of her work on the older section.
“I always had an interest in cemeteries,” Gorman said, “It evolved from going to our local cemetery and seeing the condition that it is in, seeing something that is broken, and instead of just thinking, ‘Oh, that is such a shame,’ to wondering, ‘Is there something I can do about that?’ I really wanted to learn the right way to do it and be able to make a small difference.”
The Minden Cemetery holds many early business leaders, teachers, politicians, doctors and 21 unnamed Confederate soldiers who lost their lives after the Battle of Mansfield. Many of the older gravestones were destroyed or covered during a tornado that came through the town on May 1,1933.
“It started with just uncovering things that were buried and cleaning dirt off the stones,” Gorman said, “But now that I have attended a cemetery preservation workshop and received some hands-on instruction on how to properly do it – such as what products to use – I finally feel like I have enough substantial knowledge that I could really help to preserve and not cause harm to any of it.”
It was in November of last year that Schelley Brown Francis, Executive Director of the Dorcheat Historical Museum Association, asked Gorman if she would like to begin assisting her at the museum. So far, she has helped get the Dorcheat Museum YouTube channel up and running where they are sharing all the oral history that has been collected since 2008, along with setting up new exhibits, such as the Minden Hospital and BB Gun exhibit.
“She is just like I was 20 years ago,” said Francis, “I have been praying for several years about who was going to take this over after I left. When you put your heart and soul into something for so many years, you worry about it. I did not want to see all this hard work just go away.”
Francis says she feels confident that Gorman understands the important task at hand and rests assured the museum will be well cared for when she decides to step away. She believes it will help reach a different generation, having a younger person with as much passion and knowledge about Minden’s history.
One of the main struggles they are facing right now is getting the younger generation of people interested and helping to financially support the museum.
“A lot of people I know, do not even know it is here,” said Gorman, “We need to start with getting more awareness out there.”
Like most businesses, Dorcheat Historical Museum was shut down for about 6 months during Covid. They have remained slow on visitors ever since, but they are optimistic that things will be back in full swing soon. They are hoping to get back to having speakers and hosting events again.
The museum is now accepting online donations on their new website http://www.dorcheatmuseum.com.